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Koch Brothers' Americans For Prosperity Goes All Out in Wisconsin Recall--And Denies It!

The spokesperson for the Koch Brothers' anti-union crusade claims their efforts are not on behalf of any candidate.

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Among other things, Walker asked that Koch have “his guy on the ground” – presumably an Americans for Prosperity leader – organize rallies and encourage people “to call lawmakers and tell them to hang firm with the governor.”

Regardless of how AFP received the request for help, the group seemed to have met Walker's request. The same day that Walker chatted with the fake David Koch, Koch's AFP began running "Stand With Walker" TV ads across the state, along with promoting a pro-Walker petition. As the anti-Walker protests heated up, AFP launched a "Stand With Walker" website and a "Stand With Walker Wisconsin Bus Tour," and organized a "Stand With Walker" counter-rally at the state capitol.

Months later, Walker himself adopted the "Stand With Walker" slogan for his election campaign. (The slogan also appeared to inspire this face-melting rock video).

Not about the Election?

In 2012, AFP appears to be ramping-up its campaign to aid Walker as his recall election grows near. AFP kicks off the "A Better Wisconsin Bus Tour" in Waukesha on May 30, visiting ten Wisconsin cities before rendezvousing in Racine with out-of-state AFP members. As part of the tour, 70 staff members will be recruiting volunteers to call voters and canvass neighborhoods. In recent weeks, the group has also been  organizing phone banks.

Although Governor Walker likes to complain that out-of-state union bosses are behind his recall, AFP has been recruiting plenty of support for Walker from outside Wisconsin. State AFP chapters around the country have been organizing organizing "Freedom Phone" phonebanks for "patriots throughout the nation" to make phone calls into Wisconsin to tell Wisconsin residents to "support[] the Wisconsin reforms."

The AFP operation in Illinois is busing out-of-staters "to rally and canvass neighborhoods in [Racine] Wisconsin on June 2" (three days before the election) to "make our voices heard in support of the Wisconsin reforms." The effort appears to be well-funded -- attendees are charged cost only $5 for a round-trip bus ticket with lunch and dinner provided. By comparison, a round-trip commercial bus ticket from Racine to Chicago would cost $47, lunch and dinner not included.

The director of AFP's Wisconsin arm insists the effort has nothing to do "with any candidates, political parties or ongoing races," despite photos from recent events prominently displaying pro-Walker campaign propaganda and one of AFP's top field coordinators being a current Vice-Chair and Executive Board Member of the Winnebago County Republican Party. Additionally, many AFP staffers have long ties to the GOP, such as AFP Director Luke Hilgemann, who until recently worked as Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder's Chief of Staff.  (More information is available about Hilgemann and Suder in the Center for Media and Democracy's ALEC Exposed in Wisconsin report.)

It is not clear whether the bus tour, phone banks, and canvassing are operating via the 501(c)(3) AFP-Foundation, which is officially prohibited from any political campaign activity, or through AFP's 501(c)(4) wing, which can do some things its (c)(3) cannot but also cannot act as a Political Action Committee or 527 organization without disclosing electioneering expenditures.

Regardless of which AFP wing is advancing the campaign, it stretches the imagination to believe AFP's claims that organizing bus tours, phone banks, TV ads and out-of-state canvassers -- in the weeks and months before the election -- has nothing to do with the election. Particularly when AFP chair David Koch, who has not given any money directly to Walker's recall campaign fund, has recently said "we're helping [Walker], as we should" and "we've spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We're going to spend more."